X-Men cometh: Xaverian earns top seed in CHSAA intersectional playoffs

Xaverian coach Lou Piccola calls it the “hat trick,” and the Clippers are two-thirds of the way there after beating St. Joseph by the Sea, 8-5, at Shore Road Park last Friday afternoon.

Xaverian (18-1), which won the Brooklyn/Queens division title, earns the top seed in the CHSAA Class A intersectional tournament and by proxy is the favorite to win the Catholic crown.

But catcher Elvin Soto is wary about getting too pumped.

“I’m a little excited, but last year we came in the same way and you saw what happened,” the Arizona-bound junior said. “We lost two games and blew it. We have to keep coming hungry.”

The Clippers were certainly hungry against Staten Island division champion St. Joseph by the Sea. Xaverian fell behind 2-0, but responded with five runs in the bottom of the first, chasing Vikings starter Frank Stavola.

Xaverian starter Eric Wlasiuk struggled with his control early and was punished as Sea (15-2) scored three runs in the top of the third to tie the game at 5. But he got out of a jam when second baseman Eric Kalman turned an inning-ending double play.

“Thefielders did great,” Wlasiuk said. “They’re always so cohesive together. They know how to back a guy up when he’s having issues on the mound.”

After J.T. Torres put the sixth-ranked Clippers in front 6-5 on an infield hit in the bottom of the third, Wlasiuk got into a groove, retiring the side in order in the fourth and fifth innings.

“I think before I was taking too long to throw so toward the end I started to go a little quicker through my motion and it started to work real well for me,” Wlasiuk said. “I think I’m going to stick with that from now on.”

Wlasiuk walked Nick Galli to lead off the sixth inning and Chris Falcone then squared up to sacrifice the Sea right fielder into scoring position. But Xaverian third baseman Kevin Martir raced in and turned a rally-killing double play.

“That broke our backs,” Sea coach Gordon Rugg said. “If he gets [the sacrifice] down the right way, you never know. But they hit late, they always score late. We knew that coming in.”

Rugg was right. Skyler Ortiz singled to left-center, scoring Martir and Tommy Midolo, who was 2-for-3 with two RBIs, drove in Kalman with a sacrifice fly to center.

That was more than enough run support for Wlasiuk, who allowed four earned runs on five hits, striking out five and walked four in a complete-game victory.

“He’s a gutty kid, a tough kid. He’s going to fight you and I think that’s the big thing,” Piccola said. “That’s what you want. He got behind early first couple of innings, made a couple of mistakes, but he was able to recover and pitch a helluva game. It was a tremendous effort on his part.”